I’ve had OCD since I was three years old when I was putting myself in timeout because I felt I wasn’t “good enough." As a young kid, I was checking that my steps were always symmetrical, praying often, and reading scriptures for long amounts of time. I was always very socially conscious, and so I quickly realized which compulsions were acceptable and which were viewed as abnormal.
I’ll always remember the time my elementary school teacher and classmates watched me run into a wall because I had been praying in my head with my eyes closed. I quickly started finding ways to satiate my fear and shame without concerning others. That often looked like pouring into scripture, creatively asking for reassurance, and doing mental compulsions like praying or repeating scriptures in discreet ways. I’d wait until my family was asleep to do the more visible ones like checking locks or doing a repentance ritual where I’d pray audibly while listing every sin I ever committed.
Unfortunately, society praised the compulsions they saw. My compulsion of bearing my testimony in front of the congregation every month was praised as faith and devotion. Rereading my patriarchal blessing every night was seen as devout. They didn’t see the panic that went into it, the need I had to reassure myself I was on the right path. When I checked in on my friends and even strangers often, it was considered thoughtful. They didn’t see the fear that I might disappoint God if I didn't.
I started realizing something was different about me in junior high, but I attributed it to my own inadequacy. I started wanting to quit things I wasn't “perfect” at, but the guilt I got from quitting was too big. I started exaggerating health issues so I’d have an excuse to quit without facing my own imperfection.
But within a couple months, I was no longer exaggerating. The pain was extreme, and in the back of my head I felt guilty that I might have even been the cause of it. I saw a therapist, but with an improper diagnosis and treatment I only got worse.
By high school I was experiencing nearly every form of OCD there is. It would take me hours to get back from school because I’d spend time lingering in case God needed me to help with something. I overshared as a compulsion. I stopped eating because of contamination OCD and fear of worsening my current health conditions. My physical pain was excessive and dark. If not for an antidepressant they prescribed for my nerve condition, I don’t think I would have made it through high school.
I felt stuck in my own brain and spent so much time wondering “how are they doing that?” and envying things as simple as someone cleaning their room, making a bad decision, or doing their homework on time. I felt like a failure in more ways than one. I was unable to serve a church service mission like I’d always planned on. And while part of me was relieved, it only contributed to my feelings of worthlessness.
In college I reached my breaking point. One day I remember talking to my dad about all the things that were wrong with me when suddenly I heard the phrase “You have OCD” come to mind. I knew it was from God and sought help immediately.
I was diagnosed at age 20 after 17 years of suffering. I was considered clinically severe but through ERP emerged with a clinically mild case. Now I share my story in hopes of helping people, with or without OCD, to feel mercy, grace, and compassion rather than the fear and shame I’d been stuck in for so long. The waves of OCD ebb and flow, but I feel more aligned with who I want to be more than ever.
Treatment is worth it.
Tia wants to be your friend and support you on your mental health journey. DM her on instagram @tortillawillson for additional support!